Washington Prowler

Innocents Abroad

Don’t send Joe Biden to do Condi Rice’s job. Plus: Frost is off the pumpkin.

By 2.1.05

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UGLY AMERICAN OF THE WEEK
So much for Sen. Joe Biden's audition as a future Secretary of State. At least if you ask the Iranians.

Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Biden agreed to serve as a host and leading U.S. representative at a dinner with senior Iranian government officials. WEF staff contacted Biden's staff and said later that Biden or at least his aides took an active interest in coordinating the planning for the event.

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was the highest-ranking Iranian official present at the event. Which is more than can be said for his U.S. counterparts; for the first hour and half of the dinner others had to lead the discussion, because Joe Biden was a mysterious no-show.

Just as well, because the evening never got on the right footing. Wine was served -- much to the outrage of the Iranian guests -- then all alcohol was removed. Soup spoons were removed -- not for religious or any other reason, apparently -- leaving guests to twiddle their thumbs while their soup got cold. Then it was discovered by the Iranians that the main course featured non-hallal meat.

And through all of this, there was no Joe Biden to calm nerves or build bridges.

"It was pretty bad from what we heard after the fact," says a U.S. attendee to the Davos conference. "Emotions were running extremely high. The Iranians felt insult had been heaped on insult. They were particularly offended that the hosts appeared to know so little about basic Islamic dietary law."

Once the serving miscues were resolved, it was pile on the Iranians time again, but this time dealing with the serious matter of Iran's nuclear weapons program, which Kharrazi predictably denied was a weapons program at all.

Finally, as the tense discussion appeared ready to, well, explode, Biden showed up with this wife Jill, who was dressed in what was described in press reports as "figure-hugging leather pants" and a tank top. Again, the Iranians, who no doubt ogled a bit, were insulted.

The dining disaster was the talk of Davos, though got comparatively little coverage here in the United States. "This kind of thing could have happened to anyone, but the fact that it happened to Biden is just too rich," says a Republican congressional staffer who traveled with his boss to Davos. "The Biden people were pushing this dinner as a very high profile thing, then all of sudden they are trying to kill any story they can."

FROST IS OFF THE PUMPKIN
With word leaking that former Rep. Martin Frost is pulling out of contention for DNC chairman, it appears that there is now little the anti-Howard Dean forces can do to prevent the former presidential candidate from taking the job currently held by close Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe.

Dean has been in the enviable position of being able to trot out new state endorsements just about every day for the past two weeks.

Once again, it appears that Frost, who was viewed as the best moderate alternative to Dean, was undone by his former colleague Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who actively made calls against Frost to a number of state Democratic Party leaders.

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